March 1, 2007

Watched a couple of not-so-new movies over the past couple of days that I thought were worth mentioning.

woo John Woo’s “Windtalkers”, starring Nicolas Cage, could have been a heck of a lot better than it actually was.

In short, this movie (about Marines charged with protecting Navajo Indian soldiers and the code they used to disguise U.S. military maneuvers from the Japanese during the battle of Saipan, seemed to have a hard time deciding what it wanted to be. Given Woo’s extensive use of graphic battle violence throughout the movie, it seemed like he was trying to do his own version of “Saving Private Ryan”, but the characters’ actions and personality traits made it seem to me more like the Vietnam-era “Platoon” than a World War II movie. Granted, I’m sure there were soldiers who never wanted to be there or felt disillusioned after experiencing the horrors of war for the first time, but I doubt many of them questioned why they were there, as was the case on several occasions here. Surely, Woo’s characters had heard of Pearl Harbor, hadn’t they?

The other thing that was disappointing about this flick is that Woo’s characters – even Cage’s shell-shocked veteran – bordered on stereotype, and his gratuitous use of bloodshed seemed so unnecessary. I mean, here you had the potential of a truly fascinating story – the clash of cultures experienced on both sides (not to mention the irony) as native Americans are called upon to use their own language and culture to protect the hides of the very kind of people who sought to exterminate them not so many generations before. To be able to tell such a story within the context of a vicious and bloody military campaign requires both a well-crafted script, characters with true depth, and a deft directorial touch, neither of which seemed to be present here. Too bad. The ending was really good, but everything before it, not so great.

On the other hand…

emilyrose “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” was a movie I found riveting, unsettling, and not just a little bit unnerving.

This movie, about a Roman Catholic priest on trial for the death of a young woman shortly after an exorcism he had attempted failed to work, was brilliantly acted, and both interesting and thought-provoking. In actuality, this movie is really a courtroom drama more than anything else, but the way it presents, touches, and asks us to consider the medical, pschological, and religious aspects of demonic possession allows all three possibilities to live and breathe without ridiculing one or the other, and – most importantly – giving the ending away.

The strange thing is, Tracey had to force me into watching this movie, and I went into it not expecting to like it at all. After all, I’d read a number of reviews by others on it and heard it was nothing but a hit-piece on religion and the Roman Catholic Church, but I found myself drawn in from the very start. The one thing that was really impressive to me was the way Emily’s “possession” and the exorcism scenes themselves were presented. Having read a number of works on the subject, I found both of these (and Tom Wilkinson’s priest/exorcist character as well) quite realistic and believable. And even if they weren’t, any time you get solid acting performances as there are throughout this film, how believable the story-line ends up being in the end doesn’t much matter.

So big-time kudos to “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” – I guarantee after watching it, you’ll never think of 3:00 AM the same way ever again.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:49 | Comments (0)
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